The Franklin School In Spokane, Washington: A Blast From The Past

There’s no doubt that Franklin Elementary School is an intriguing part of Spokane history. Architecturally, the brick construction, wavy glass windows, and stone foundation give even the casual street observer a feeling of timeless tradition.
Franklin School in more modern times.
Landscaped with huge, ancient pines, a roundabout cement walkway, and a granite threshold, Franklin continues to be a focal point in this community. Facing the south, Franklin School majestically looks upon the city. Franklin was the product of master architect, Loren Rand. It reflects a neo-Classical influence that made Rand famous for several schools and buildings in the area. Rand’s buildings included Lewis and Clark High School, First Presbyterian Church, banks, stores, and high end homes. Although many of Rand’s schools have not survived the bulldozer, his stunning design of fluted columns are still noted at Franklin’s entrance. The following paragraphs depict the history of this longstanding campus in Spokane, Washington.
Stepping inside the building, the feel and ambience is immediate. Franklin’s tall ceilings, wooden stairways, and hardwood floors welcome students, parents, and teachers. Worn indentations on the stairway landings are testaments to Franklin’s long heritage. The single pipe steam radiator system provides welcoming, old-style warmth on cold winter mornings.
For 100 years, the Franklin School has played a huge part in the surrounding area. Not only has Franklin provided an excellent education to tens of thousands of students, but it has also brought this neighborhood together. Known as the “Franklin Community,” the common goals of education, teamwork, acceptance, and love-of-learning remain.
The Franklin School had an earlier existence in downtown Spokane. Completed in 1889, nearly one hundred years after the death of Benjamin Franklin, the original Franklin school was located on Front and Grant Streets. As the school was preparing to open its doors in September, the Great Fire of Spokane destroyed 32 square blocks of downtown on August 4, 1889. This was a remarkably sad time for the city with millions of dollars in damages. A distance away from the flames, the newly built Franklin was out of harm’s way.
That building cost $30,000 to build but it did not stay at that location. With a growing downtown and railroad, the original Franklin School was closed down in 1908. The railroad truly wanted the land where the Franklin School was planted however, and there were disputes over a fair price. It was headline news on December 10, 1909, that Judge Huneke’s courtroom jury decided that the Milwaukee Railroad would need to pay the school district $115,000 for the building and land. The city ledger showed a final sales amount of $116,777.40 in this condemnation matter. Interestingly, just a decade earlier, the school had been valued at only $5000. Attorney Ed Huneke, Judge Heneke’s grandson, explained that in a condemnation matter the railroad, like the State, could claim property–but needed to pay for it. After the railroad purchased the school and land the place was gutted by fire, allegedly the handywork of a firebug. Limited water pressure impaired the task of putting out the fire which started in the basement. The railroad declared $25,000 in damages and the place was demolished in 1910. There is little doubt that those were hustling and bustling times in Spokane’s history; a growing city advancing in all directions.
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The original Franklin School built in 1889.
The original Franklin School was located along Front Street (now Trent) directly across from what was then the Northern Pacific roundhouse. This was about six blocks east of Division Street, on Trent along the north side. One can only imagine the distraction of trains and noise that were in close proximity to the school. If nothing else, the temptation to view those monstrous locomotives from the schoolhouse windows would have been great. No doubt, more than one lad put pennies on the tracks to later find them squished. It’s fun to note the recorded costs that were needed to operate the early Franklin School for the 1906-1907 school year: furniture, $140.19; telephone, $27.00; repairs, $283.77; teacher’s pay, $7,139.12; janitors, $861.70; fuel, $604.47; lights, $18.50; and teaching supplies, $83.69– for a grand total of $9,601.17. Unfortunately, the original Franklin is completely gone and there are no physical signs that the school ever existed. Now, Washington State University’s Spokane branch resides on the land where the original Franklin once stood.
The old Franklin School has historical significance because it was used as a jail during the famous Free Speech Fights of Spokane. In 1909, the building had been abandoned and stood vacant and in legal limbo. With the railroad, lumber, mining, and orchard industries nearby, physical laborers were in high demand. Many of these working class people were immigrants, many were migratory, and many others were Spokane citizens. All of them were trying to feed themselves and/or their families.
In 1909, thirty-one employment agencies lined Stevens Street in Spokane. Known as “labor sharks,” most of these businesses were in cahoots with the foremen of various industrial operations. Charging a dollar a job to each worker, these agencies were directing workers to jobs that either did not exist, or to ones that did not pay their workers. The abuses became so dreadful and blatant that the Industrial Workers of the World or the I.W.W. carved a foothold in Spokane. Considered a union organization, members known as “Wobblies,” began to speak publicly regarding Spokane’s dirty secret. Crates were overturned and Wobblies spoke out on street corners. Rebelling against a squelch ordinance designed to keep them silent, Spokane Wobblies were arrested in great numbers, around 500. Word of these civil rights violations washed across the country. The famous Elizabeth Gurley Flynn came to Spokane, published the abuses in The Industrial Worker, and joined the cause–complete with an arrest too.
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November 12, 1909 Spokesman Review photograph: Armed with rifles, policemen Dugger and Willis guard I.W.W. prisoners at the old Franklin School.
After the city jail was filled with Wobblies, many more were imprisoned in the abandoned Franklin school. An arrangement with the army offered to hold more at Fort George Wright. Reportedly, three prisoners died after their release from the old Franklin school. Refusing to chop and haul firewood, Wobblies in the school were so cold that they tore molding from the walls to burn for warmth. Some went on hunger strikes. Prisoner James Stark kept a diary describing how the prisoners were badly beaten and abused by the police guards; eyes were blackened, teeth were broken, clothing torn, and there was much blood. As word got out, more and more Wobblies came to Spokane to fight for free speech and the freedom of their brothers. Many Spokane citizens were complaining too about the prison costs and treatment of the Wobblies. In the end, the Spokane authorities relented because of law suits and large numbers of Wobblies. Within a year, the police chief and four policemen were fired, the squelch ordinance was “put on ice,” and 19 employment agencies were closed down–the primary reason why the I.W.W. spoke out in the first place. According to Flynn, Mayor N.S. Pratt admitted to knowing that the employment agencies were dishonest and that he had helped many workers get back thousands of their rightfully earned dollars. Importanly, the I.W.W. wanted change through the pen and tongue, and not the violence that was brought upon them.
Some students today will mistakenly think that the new Franklin school was a jail. Even though the basement may be reminiscent of a prison with its brick-walled windows, it was actually the old Franklin once located downtown that served that function. It seems ironic that this chapter of this once beautiful and peaceful school ended so violently.
The new Franklin School at 2627 East Seventeenth Avenue was completed in 1909 at a cost of $45,000 according to newspaper reports. In those early days, and much of the 1900s, grades went from first through eighth. During some years, double shifts and A/B sections accommodated large quantities of students.
One old timer who lived in the area recalled that when Franklin was being built, horse drawn wagons came up the hill and delivered building supplies along Seventeenth Avenue, a dirt road then. It wasn’t until the early 1930’s that Seventeenth Avenue was paved. The “Lincoln Park” streetcar was entered into service at about this same time. It held 52 passengers and ran from downtown, along Seventeenth, to Ray Street. Can you imagine riding inside that streetcar with the windows open, smelling the lilacs, and enjoying the ride?
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The 1916 First Grade classroom at Franklin.
Besides a sturdy, well-built school, relic treasures of those early days remain. Class pictures, letters, and articles depict a vibrant school dedicated to education, rigor, clubs, and “quiet hallways.” Some things never change at Franklin.
Eighth graders of 1918 standing on Franklin’s front steps.
The north side of the school overlooks the city of Spokane, now partially obscured by tall pines. From the balcony and north windows, one can view the playground, ball field, and portables like a bird. An iron mesh fire escape with steep stairs still remains, and connects the upper floor with the ground. In fact, up until the mid 1980’s this fire escape was still used in routine fire drills. Girls and teachers alike, who wore high heels and/or skirts were faced with the daunting task of gracefully stepping down the steep mesh stairs. Many a past student, and one or two of the dated staff, recall going down those stairs. Today, other routes are used for drills.
As mentioned earlier, much of Franklin is heated with what is known as Single Pipe Radiator Heat. Here, steam travels up to individual radiators through a large diameter pipe, condenses into water, which then travels back to the boiler through the same pipe. What makes the system so interesting is that while the heating steam travels upward, the condensed water travels downward by gravity back to the boiler through the same port. A small valve on each radiator bleeds the system of air and a soft “chicka-chicka-chicka” sound is intermittently heard. A substantial portion of the basement is dedicated to the mammoth equipment used to heat the building and provide fresh air. This system was a precursor to the Double Pipe Systems that were so prevalent in yesteryears, and remain so today. A more efficient gas broiler now provides steam for the building. The huge air exchangers and plenums put into use nearly a century ago are still working to provide fresh air to the building. A basement tour reveals intriguing technology that is reminscent of the Titanic.
In the old days, coal was used to heat the Franklin boilers. When coal burns it leaves behind clinkers that are a rough, glassy byproduct. Custodians at Franklin were commissioned to remove the clinkers each day and dump them over the bank behind the school. One such custodian, Mr. Coobaugh, warned students to not touch the clinkers because they were often hot. After years of accumulation, the early playground was largely surfaced with clinkers. Reportedly, many a slice, scrape, bump, and bruise were suffered on the playground of clinkers. The playground has long since been paved, and the playground equipment areas are padded with tanbark. In the main boiler room, coal and clinkers can still be found.
The bank that separates the upper and lower playgrounds is largely composed of clay. For years, various classes would collect the reddish clay from the bank, shape it, and have it kiln fired as a permanent keepsake. On occasion, it was reported that fossils were found at this location. If you or an ancestor have one of these keepsakes, and would like to share, we’d be delighted to see it.
In 1931, before the major expansion in 1953, a framed multi-purpose auditorium/gym was added to the east side of the campus. Here, meetings, rainy day recess, plays, and other functions were held. Two narrow, arched, brick entries connected it to the main building. Those bricked archways can be seen today; they are observed from the east parking lot and are filled in with bricks, and are the only physical evidence that the stick framed structure once existed. Unlike the brick construction of the main building, the auditorium was of a different breed. Joan and Don Sayler, who attended Franklin from 1938-1943, were interviewed in 1989. They recalled that their eighth grade school play was held in this room. In fact, that’s where they met and, as sweethearts, they later married. For years, a Mrs. Foster taught piano lessons to students for 25 cents a lesson in this room. The framed multi-purpose room was removed in the late 1950’s and its spot is now a parking lot. Mark Erickson, who attended Franklin in the late 1950’s and 1960’s indicated that the auditorium was moved to Ferris High School and was used as the Health classroom.
Brothers, Robert and Ray Mosher attended Franklin in the 1940’s and 1950’s. According to Bob and Ray, the wood frame auditorium had a stage on the north side of the building with maroon colored curtains that could be drawn closed. An upright piano sat along the east wall just below the stage and was used for choral events and talant shows. The building had double doors that faced south on 17th Avenue. There were windows above the door and along the Mt. Vernon side. The space was heated with steam radiators that were situated along the east and west walls, had dark stained fir wood floors, wooden benches, and a tall ceiling. The gym was a busy place that could probably accommodate the entire student body in a packed pinch.
Ray (1949-57) recalled that band practice occurred in this space and was conducted by Mr. Fuller of Lewis and Clark. Ray indicated that the auditorium was isolated from the rest of the school so “…we didn’t bother other classes–only Mr. Fuller.” Of interest, Ray recalled seeing a couple of Rube Goldberg Machine shows in the auditorium. These unique shows were offered by a local man, Herman Hansen, whose name surfaced when his daughter, Barbara Hansen Sarp (1944-53), read this article. Each year Herman spent weeks creating a new, incredible machine which ran flawlessly. He did this during the time his chidren, Barbara and Colin (1947-56), attended Franklin. In fact, Herman and his wife, Pat, were very active in the PTA and other school functions. Rube Goldberg machines were intricate, complex, and mind boggling. They would perform a simple task like pouring a cup of water or lighting a candle. RubeGoldman2.png
A humorous sketch of a Rube Goldberg Machine.
Using marbles, troughs, chains, levers, and other mechanical wizardry, the machine would automatically go through its actions leading up to a grand finale. The entire movement of the machine might take 5 minutes to go through its process. Needless to say, this was hugely entertaining to Ray and the other students.
Bob Mosher remembered that coed dancing and volleyball occurred in the auditorium. Both Mosher brothers started piano lessons with a Mrs. Florence Ehrenberg. They began lessons at school and then later at Mrs. Ehrenberg’s “grand old home” on Cook Street, just south of Altamont Street. Bob also indicated that a Miss Davis taught voice at Franklin and a couple of other schools.
Bob recalled that his kindergarten class (1945-46) was held in a converted coat closet on the west side of the original building. He also recalled that classmate Bo Brian, lived in the house along Mt. Vernon Street, that later became the kindergarten house where brother Ray attended.
The basement of the original school was a busy place too. Storage rooms, and the boys and girls bathrooms were down there. With bathroom pass in hand, many a student have vanished into the bathrooms-only to be retrieved later by a teacher, returned to the classroom, and asked to work. Along the east end of the basement, Ray Mosher recalls that tumbling classes were held there. He also remembers the basement being used for bomb/fallout drills. Today, the basement is used for a variety of activities, including the Science Fair. Mr. Potts, the head custodian, waxes the cement floor to a beautiful shine.
Franklin was a booming school and in 1941, parent groups helped purchase the house along Mt. Vernon Street and the land behind it. Money for this project was partially obtained through card parties, dinners, dances, and socials. The procured land became the grassy ball field and the house was transformed into a kindergarten. Parents helped convert it and they built the miniature furniture used inside. Since the district did not sponsor a kindergarten, a fee was charged to parents for this service. Before the purchase of the house, kindergarten was held in a cloak closet.
In years past, it was mandated or expected that teachers would remain “unmarried” and “without child.” If a teacher decided to marry, she would need to quit teaching. The idea was that a given teacher’s attention should be solely focused on students…and nothing else…not even a mate or family. Besides that, what on earth would young minds think if their teacher was married or, worse yet, married and morphing pregnant! Of course this was a double standard involving the genders and one that would not last. Recently, I was told that the issue simply revolved around childhood diseases and the dangers of pregnancy, schools, and germs. This could be so. Diseases, such as chickenpox and measles, were far more dangerous to pregnant women and their unborn babes of yesteryear. Fortunately, times do change. The first teacher at Franklin School to get married and remain teaching was Beverly Byers-Donner, and the year was 1945. This was a postwar time which may have influenced this longstanding attitude. Vaccinations were on the scene too. Now, it is not uncommon for professionals to teach right up to the end of their pregnancy.
For decades, a bust of Benjamin Franklin remained on the stairway landing between the first and second floors. Over the term, jillions of students filed past his smirking face as they rounded the corner to go up or down the stairs. His nose shows wear and tear where students amused themselves by touching it as they walked by. Some even put their pencils in his nostrils… and the scars remain. Now, the same bust safely resides on top of a glass case above the entry stairway. As an aside, pendulum or wind-up school clocks were used to keep time in the school. Lucky and privileged eighth graders, were honored with the duty of setting the clocks once a month. Today, integrated clocks keep (near) perfect time, and security systems monitor the entire campus.
In the fall of 1952 nearly 500 students were attending Franklin School. It was the only school in the district that incorporated double shifting so everyone could be taught. In this same year there were 53 kindergarteners taught by Gladys Hoagland. Newspaper accounts reported that Franklin was bulging. More room was needed and in 1953, a $280,000 expansion to the west was completed. The new wing included classrooms, lockers, a library, multi-purpose room, and kitchen. The kindergarten class returned to the main building at some point after 1953, and the converted kindergarten was torn down sometime in the 1960’s.
In 1989, marking 100 years after the first school was constructed, Franklin educators brought students closer with its past. Students were commissioned to interview old alumni. Several old-timers came forward with fascinating memories, some of which are reflected here. They spoke of the education that they received at Franklin, the personalities of the teachers and principals, and the caring environment that shrouded this campus. They spoke of a booming era, a certain innocence, and how a nickel would buy a huge chocolate bar. Many of those alumni went on to become physicians, politicians, and other important leaders who attribute their educational foundation to the Franklin School. One such politician is the Honorable Dirk Kempthorne, former Governor of Idaho, and former Secretary of the Interior. Another is longtime writer Doug Clark of the Spokesman Review (perhaps some of Clark’s ideas were hatched from his early days at Franklin). As a matter of fact, Clark’s name is still etched in chalk on the auditorium wall; an infraction that nearly cost him his graduation according to Clark.
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Doug Clark, Alumnus speaks to Franklin students, 5/09
Others include Mt. Everest climber, Dawes Eddy, and reporter, Randy Shaw. Still, many others raised families in the area and helped build the city we know as the Lilac one. A Spokesman Review article published June 10, 1928 extolled the Franklin School’s commitment to the teaching of self-reliance and group cooperation. Still today, the caliber of education promoted at Franklin produces students who are smart, cooperative, and caring people.
With a history of growth, two portable classrooms on the north side were added to the upper playground area in 1955. A third, larger one was added at some point. In the summer of 1986, an additional classroom was added upstairs, and smaller rooms housed a guidance center. Due to a change in the district’s educational structure, the guidance center left Franklin and was consolidated elsewhere. In 1987, part of the lower hallway was divided and turned into an additional room. It now houses a meeting area and teachers’ room. The school’s original kitchen remains as part of this area.
The same classrooms that taught students a century ago, are still doing their job in timeless surroundings. While times and teachers may have changed, the need for the Three Rs have not. Tens of thousands of Franklin alumni and parents would certainly agree. Franklin’s tradition is evident here, even today with busy classrooms, bustling hallways, and responsible youngsters. In 2004, Franklin earned the National Blue Ribbon Award and, since 1982, Franklin has hosted the parent participation program, APPLE.
In 1985, the Spokesman Review reported on Franklin School’s participation in the “Million Cranes For Peace.” Headline news announced, “President Reagan will be the recipient of a Thousand Cranes.” Students here folded 1000 origami cranes as part of the project which were sent to President Ronald Reagan. The message was clear…Peace.
Students and adults are delighted by Franklin’s history, especially where a common building, neighborhood, and goal knit many generations together. Students here enjoy reviewing pictures, comparing present day landmarks, hearing stories, and pondering an earlier time at Franklin too. Oral histories offered by alumni are fascinating and offer a glimpse into a different era at Franklin…and a changing world. Students, teachers, and others can relate to such information because of the building and culture that holds people together. Some of the current students here have parents, grandparents, or great grandparents who also attended Franklin. Nearly everyone in this community knows at least a few people who attended this great school. Since the current building was erected in 1909, and even before that, everyone at Franklin School has had the same goal–to learn and to have fun. And besides that, it was Benjamin Franklin who said, “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”
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The Franklin Centennial Parade.
On May 21 and 22, 2009, Franklin celebrated a century of teaching and learning excellence. There was an alumni reception and a mammoth street parade and festival. The events attracted hundreds of alumni and the occasions were remarkable. See pictures of the Alumni Reception or the Parade.
We can use your help!
Do you have any Franklin School memories, stories, or photographs that you would like to share? We would be delighted to add your memories to the growing collection of photographs and oral histories. Click here for oral history ideas and a format. Please email or mail your memories, pictures, or other artifacts to:
Brian Shute, Ph.D.
Franklin School Historical Society
Box 30621
Spokane, WA 99223
UPDATE: After 107 years of educational use Franklin School will be receiving a facelift during the 2017-2018 school year. With bond levy funding we are pleased that the original 1909 building will be kept and revamped with a magnificent addition to the west. Great care has been taken by ALSC Architects of Spokane to maintain complementary styles between old and new while modernizing what needs to happen. Input from the community, teachers, and staff were taken to help make this happen. During the transition, Franklin will carry on at the old Jefferson School.
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Beginning in June 2017 Franklin School will change. Thanks to a 26 million dollar bond improvement Franklin will be revitalized. During the 18 month building process Franklin students and staff will attend “Camp Franklin” at the old Jefferson School on Grand Boulevard and 37th Avenue. The new Franklin promises to be bigger, updated, and ready for the next 107 years of education. The original Franklin shell built in 1909 was recently placed on the State’s Historical Registry and it will remain. The interior will receive modernization.
In preparation for the renovation Dr. Shute with the help of SLP student mentee, Ge Zhao, offered two historical tours on April 14 & 28, 2017. Many teachers and alumni from yesteryear attended. Mrs. Honeywell who attended Franklin in 1927 was one of them! Doug Clark of the Spokesman Review was another. Don Miller who graduated in 1939 was yet another. Some current staff at Franklin attended too and they included Shelly Pederson, Wendy Williamson, Diane Hadsell, and Stephanie Hengstler. All proceeds from the tours were offered to the ASB to help fund the Sixth Grade Camp Outing and to help bring about Healthy Food Awareness.
Lucia Gilbert 1890-1900
Carolyn MacKay 1900-1901
Lida Putnam 1901-1906
Georgia Meek 1906-1908
D.B. Heil 1908-1909
Meb Tower 1909-1911
Frances Weisman 1915-1918
Gleanor Worcester 1918-1923
Oda Most 1923-1924
Pauline Drake 1924-1928
Bess Turner 1928-1939
Austin Henry 1939-1944
Lewis Stevens 1944-1945
Walter Wildley 1946-1954
Clifford Hardin 1954-1961
Margaret (Peg) Tully 1961-1964
Howard Martinson 1964-1969
Lloyd Breeden 1969-1976
Seth Huneywell 1976-1978
William Reuter 1978-1980
Elva Dike Mote 1980-1988
Linda Haladyna 1988-1994
Mike Cosgrove 1994-1997
Sonja Ault 1997-2002
Mary Seeman 2002-2006
Mickey Hanson 2006-2013
Irene Gonzalas 2013-2015
Buz Hollingsworth 2015-Present
Original Article March 15, 2008
Last updated May 11, 2017

Airplanes Race to Spokane! Memories of the 1927 Air Races and Derby

September 2010
The year was 1927 and aviation was both a curiosity and rage for spectators in Spokane and everywhere else in the country. The National Air Derby and Air Races made it to Spokane that September due to the efforts of Major John “Jack” Fancher (1892-1928). Major Fancher’s legacy still abounds-a Spokane street that runs north and south from Felts Field is named after the First Commander of the 41st Division, 116 Observation Squadron of the Washington Air National Guard. What was then called the “Spokane Air Port” would witness a gathering of nearly 100,000 people across several days.
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This ticket allowed entrance to the show and cost 75 cents.
The September 20th, 1927 issue of the Spokane Chronicle exclaimed, “Radio, telegraph, telephone, motion pictures and every other known means to facilitate the broadcasting of news in words and pictures will be used to cover the finish of the national air derbies and the national air race at the Spokane Air Port this week.” In fact, an additional nine telegraph lines were installed at the field to dispatch sky-breaking news to “every city, town, and hamlet in the country.”
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A newspaper ad promotes the great air derby and race.
Only months before, Charles A. Lindbergh (1902-1974) had made his famous trans-Atlantic flight and all eyes were upon aviation. Interestingly, in 1925 and 1926, Los Angeles and Cleveland had unsuccessfully put on air races. Few people attended the events and there was skepticism that such a program in Spokane would be any different. But it was. After all, Major Fancher had sponsored a popular “Air Circus” in 1925 which kept the community in awe. And with Major Fancher’s enthusiasm coupled with freshly piqued interest from Lindbergh, Spokane would be a ripe venue for a grand air race and derby. Major Fancher understood the need to get financial support and bolster the program. Accordingly, he enlisted the support of William Cowles, Louis Davenport, Harlan Peyton and a number of others who were also influential in the areas of investment, publicity, and hotels. The momentum to attract big money and large audiences was further enhanced by having the very famous, Charles A. Lindbergh visit Spokane in his Spirit of St. Louis on September 12th before the races began.
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Charles Lindbergh visited Spokane September 12, 1927 to kick off the program.
“The Spokane Air Port is rated as one of the best flying fields in the entire West,” explained a booklet published by the National Air Derby Association. The field was one and one half miles long by one half mile wide with prevailing winds from the West. Its prominent landmarks consisting of the hills, hangers, and the Spokane River made it easy for pilots to find. Known as a “fast field,” it had a hard gravel base with a “fairly good grass turf.” The airport was only five miles from downtown and had access by the Empire Electric Railway.
Numerous activities were to occur but the major ones were several races that began separately from New York and San Francisco and finishing in Spokane. Hefty prize money attracted aviators to compete and show off their ability to speed across the country or up the coast. An early Association flier boasted $28,250 cash prize money for the New York to Spokane winners; $5000 for the San Francisco to Spokane winners; and other cash prizes to make up a total of $60,000.
Out of 15 pilots who began the transcontinental race from New York, only eight of them would finish. The winning airplane was the National Eagle, a Laird Biplane flown by Charles “Speed” Holman and Lt. Tom Lane. Holman was an airmail pilot for the Chicago-St. Paul run. The National Eagle was classified as a “commercial airplane” because it held two people. Their winning time was 19 hours and 42 minutes. Another contender racing from New York was John P. Wood in his Waco monoplane.
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Lt. C.V. Haynes with his first place trophy for one of the many events that took place.
A group of 42 community men brought their resources together and purchased and equipped a Buhl Airster Biplane. Representing Spokane, pilot “Nick” Mamer and co-pilot Art Walker finished third to win a $2000 prize. Their plane was the Sun God and their time was 20 hours and 59 minutes. The winning time for the San Francisco-Spokane race was eight hours and 16 minutes.
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Later in 1929 Nick Mamer flies his Buhl AirSedan, the “Sun God,” over what is now Felts Field.
A total of 41 planes completed the transcontinental and Pacific West Coast races. Some pilots were not as lucky, however. Eddie Sinson in one of his Detroit built Stinsons, along with “Duke” Schiller in a Royal Windsor failed the nonstop race when they landed in Montana after 29 hours in the air.
Each day brought huge crowds and excitement to the airport and city. Spokane was transformed during this time. KHQ Radio broadcasted detailed reports of the “greatest aviation event in history.” Many spectators flew in from distant places in commercial planes or in their own airplanes. Many arrived by train and bus. The city was packed and all the hotels were at capacity. In fact, Lindburgh stayed at the Davenport Hotel a week before the races began. Present day Curator, Jerry Turner of Spokane has Lindburgh’s room receipt and pictures from his pre-event visit. While Lindburgh did not have trouble finding a room at the time, 4000 others later would during the events. The derby’s association bureau found accommodations in private homes for those visitors.
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Spectators at the event.
The Bozanta Tavern, which was located in Hayden, Idaho, stayed open late to help out with the overflow. A total of 99,199 admission tickets were sold and on the biggest day, 23,000 people were in attendance. All of this was a record for Spokane… and the country.
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The news media covered the race and events.
With flocks of people coming into downtown, the Great Northern Railway used some of its new electric trains to transport people to the airfield for 25 cents a ride. Parking a car at the airfield cost 50 cents. Area schools closed at noon and downtown stores closed up at 1:00. There were numerous social events that entertained the dashing pilots and the military brass who came to Spokane with their flying machines. A young woman named Mrs. Vera McDonald Cunningham won a ticket sales contest and became “Queen of the Air,” the official hostess of the program who doled out the winning prizes. Miss Audrey Smithson, Miss Fletcher Appleton, and Miss Mary Hucking of Spokane became princesses.
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Here Air Derby Queen, Miss Nixon and Nick Mamer have a photo opportunity on July 21, 1927.
The Air Derby included a ten-mile race consisting of military planes with a pylon turn located right in front of the grandstands. Army, Navy, Marine, and National Guard pilots strutted their stuff bringing shock and awe to the crowds. The fastest plane in this competition was a Curtis X-P6A flown by Lt. Eugene Batten. His speed was a fantastic 201 miles per hour. There were news reports that Jimmy Doolittle and his army pilots frightened downtown shoppers by diving their Curtis Hawks at “terrific speeds of 170 miles per hour and great noise.”
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Crewman from the Zerolene Oil Company add fuel to Jimmy Doolittle’s airplane.
Meanwhile back at the airfield, other fabulous events were taking place across the days of the program. A “huge” 6-place Douglas transported military parachute jumpers who amazed the masses below with a race to the ground. Stunt planes twisted, twirled, stalled, dove, banked, and flew upside-down to everyone’s astonishment. There was sky writing and formation flying as well. At night, illuminated stunt planes and lit-up parachute jumpers flashed through the sky. Aerial fireworks also highlighted the evening activities. Two bombing runs performed by pilots Capt. Harold Neely and Lt. Jack Allenburg of the local National Guard took out a fictitious village. Spokane youth had the opportunity to partake in a model airplane competition as well.
On that Wednesday, a parade starting at Monroe and Riverside honored pilots Mamer, Walker, and their flight crew, along with officers of the derby and National Guard. Mamer’s flight crew included R.M. Wilson and Al Coppulla and the crowds cheered the entire bunch as they motored in open cars parade-style.
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Promoting the concept of “Airmail” this booth was open for business.

On the days of September 21st through the 25th, 1927, all eyes were on the Spokane skies. The National Air Races put Spokane on the cerebral maps of Americans across the country. This was a time of dreams, competition, and skyward innovations-marked by daring people and great winged machines. What was once known as the Spokane Air Port, is now Felts Field named after John Buell Felts. Much has changed around the airfield over the last 83 years. Pavement has taken the place of green turf and several businesses abound. There is wonderful history here along with a reminiscent eatery. Back in the 1930s, the lunch counter at the airport was called the Zoom Inn-now it’s the Skyway Cafe. Other businesses and organizations like Western Aviation, Med Star, Moody Aviation, Valleyford Metal Crafters, and Spokane Turbine have a presence there now. On a historical note, I would encourage readers to drive up Fancher Road and get an enjoyable bite at the cafe. With a little imagination, visitors can still feel the whirlwind of energy that made history here in 1927.

Remembrance of Executive Order 9066 and the Japanese People in Spokane

This speech was presented to the Japanese Citizen League (JACL) in Spokane on February 26, 2011. The talk offered a brief review of Executive Order 9066, a video, and an exercise in understanding diversity. Some history and discussion of Japanese Alley in Spokane was also discussed.
Thank you for that kind introduction. Hello Ladies and Gentlemen. I am honored to be here and a part of this day of remembrance. I’d like to discuss several different things with you this afternoon. The first of these is this remembrance and why we are gathered here today.
Secondly, I’ll review a bit of the Japanese heritage that existed here in Spokane in the late 1800s and to the time of the early 1940s. I will show a video that contains live footage depicting the predominantly white culture that has existed here in Spokane since its early beginnings. We will discuss some elements of diversity and conduct a small informal experiment, measuring elements of diversity in Spokane footage around the time that the Japanese were interned. Finally, I would like to discuss how fear is implemented into our society to create prejudice and hate, to alter policy, and to deny people of their constitutional or human rights. I will try to show how the actions of yesteryear have a cyclic effect, and I will ask the question of whether or not we are duplicating those same actions now.
Today, indeed, is a special day in which we remember Executive Order 9066. This order was signed by Franklin Roosevelt on February 19th, 1942, precisely 69 years and 7 days ago. The order came after Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7, 1941. Essentially this order impacted 120,000 people of Japanese heritage, removing them from their homes and imprisoning them in ten internment camps located in seven states. This imprisonment lasted years for many people and approximately 70% of these people were American citizens.
While President Roosevelt declared December 7, 1941, “A date which will live in infamy,” we see now that the internment of the Japanese was a reaction that also lives in infamy. While the U.S. government has acknowledged this error and some restitution has been paid out, the past and the impact placed upon the Japanese Americans and their relatives can never be erased.
Of the Japanese who were sent to concentration camps, approximately 70% were Nisei or Sansei, second and third-generation Japanese Americans, also American citizens; and the rest were Issei, Japanese immigrants and resident aliens, first-generation Japanese Americans.
Fairly, I should mention that people of Italian and German ancestry were also targeted by these restrictions, including internment. Although their numbers pale in comparison, 11,000 people of German ancestry were interned, as were 3,000 people of Italian ancestry, along with some Jewish refugees. The Jewish refugees who were interned came from Germany, and the U.S. government didn’t differentiate between ethnic Jews and ethnic Germans. How ironic that those individuals who perhaps fled Nazi Germany would be interned here in America. Some of the prisoners of European descent were interned only briefly, and others were held for several years beyond the end of the war. Like the Japanese internees, these smaller groups had American-born citizens in their numbers, especially among the children.
Japanese Americans were by far the most widely affected group, as all persons of Japanese ancestry were removed from the West Coast and Southern Arizona in “military zones.” As then California Attorney General Earl Warren put it, “When we are dealing with the Caucasian race we have methods that will test the loyalty of them. But when we deal with the Japanese, we are on an entirely different field.” Naturally, this would prove to be wrong as the Japanese American population was equally shocked by the attack on Pearl Harbor. Warren’s words were offered up to create fear among the white Americans at this vulnerable time.
Interestingly, in Hawaii there were 140,000 Americans of Japanese Ancestry constituting 37% of the population. Only selected individuals of increased perceived risk were removed and interned.
The Japanese who were ripped from their homes on the West Coast were given little time to prepare. Posters were tacked up on telephone poles and in public spots announcing that the Japanese people were to gather a small portion of their things and get ready for departure. There was little backlash and the Japanese people largely went peacefully with their captors. Many of them referred to the event as “Shikataganai,” interpreted as, “It can’t be helped,” a sort of accepted fate or destiny. This concept in the white world does not exist.
Each individual could take two suitcases that included bedding, clothing, and eating utensils. Curfews were in place but many families had homes and businesses and possessions that needed attention. With limitations of what they could bring, many Japanese people were forced to leave things behind…things that they would never see again. After the war and upon return to their homes and businesses, many things had vanished. Homes were owned and inhabited by others and some properties had been bulldozed; businesses were gone for many; possessions and property entrusted to others were gone.
Bainbridge Island, across from Seattle was the first “evacuation” on the West Coast to occur. In fact, it was used as a model for the many other evacuations that would occur along the West Coast. I use the term “evacuation” loosely and perhaps a better term would be “Unconstitutional Incarcerations.” Borrowed from earthquake terminology, many descriptors that were adopted were semantically altered or sugar coated to seemingly disguise the constitutional violations that were occurring. Other terms included: Reception Centers; Relocation Centers; and Evacuees. In fact, the temporary holding tank at the Puyallup Fairgrounds was called Camp Harmony. Somehow the word Harmony naming a concentration camp along with the other terms do not capture the severity or impact set upon the Japanese-American people. Bottom line, these places were concentration camps filled with innocent people; mostly American citizens.
Curiously, Spokane was not considered to be a military zone even with its proximity to the Army and Navy bases not far away. Accordingly, many Japanese left their West Coast homes in Seattle and other places to obtain a safe haven here in Spokane. Some Japanese people had already called Spokane their home, however. Although considered a minority in this predominantly white town they had existed here for some years. In the 1880s and early 1900s, the railroad and mining industries sought laborers to carryout the immense building. Accordingly, laborors were attracted here from China and Japan to perform these jobs. After these jobs were completed, many laborers returned to their homelands, but many others settled here.
In an area called “Japanese Alley” many Japanese people lived and had businesses here. This unique area was also called Trent Alley or Chinese Alley. Even though it contained more Japanese people, the Spokane white population referred to it as “Chinatown.” While many towns on the West Coast had Asian concentrations, these places were typically separate locations and not in the mainstream. In around 1910 it was estimated that 1000 Japanese people lived in Spokane, most of them likely living in hotels, boarding houses, and flats. Japanese Alley was a shaded L-shaped alley bounded by Front and Main Streets to the North and South; and Bernard and Washington Streets to the East and West. The area began behind where Aunties Book Store now resides. The expanse of parking lot to the east is where the alley used to span. Here, a significant business district offered Japanese hotels, restaurants, laundries, bath houses and fish shops. There was a barbershop, Japanese tailor, and pool hall.
In 1912, at least 16 Japanese restaurants were in Spokane offering inexpensive food. These restaurants were called “Noodle Houses” and largely served whites. At least two restaurants in the heart of Japanese Alley specifically served Asians. In 1915 the Japanese Restaurant Keepers Association announced that it was raising the price of meals from 10 cents to 15 cents.
Thought to be a Chinese endeavor, the Japanese immigrant workforce largely took over the local laundry industry. In 1912 there were six Japanese laundries operating in Spokane, mostly in the Trent Alley. It was said that the Japanese laundries took better care of the clothing, paid attention to detail, and provided better service to their patrons.
In 1924 the Japanese population began to dwindle largely because immigration from Japan was curtailed and then banned. But in 1942 there was a sudden influx because of the Japanese people from the Westside that were avoiding the internment camps. Estimates suggest that the Japanese population in Spokane tripled during this time. Some of these people came to Spokane without knowing a soul. Can you imagine their turmoil, cares, and worries as they sought to provide shelter, food, and basic needs for themselves and families? After the war many Japanese returned to the Westside but some stayed here in Spokane. I am certain that some of you or your forefathers and foremothers are the connections I speak of here.
In the years before and after the war, the Japanese people dispersed and integrated into more affluent neighborhoods and suburbs. After the war, Japanese Alley slowly disintegrated into an area of riff raff and skid row. The area was demolished in the early 1970s in preparation for Expo ’74 and the World’s Fair.
Now I would like to shift my discussion in the direction of diversity. Although the term is commonly misused, it actually refers to the subcultures or variables of the human condition that exist in a given society. These facets include variables of age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, marital status, economic status, and disability. Realistically, their presence can potentially create prejudice, stereotypes, bigotry, and fear when propaganda is used. This is precisely what occurred when 120,000 Japanese were imprisoned on American soil.
I’d like to show you a video right now that illustrates what Spokane was like during the time that the Japanese people were being interned. This was a time in the late 30s and early 40s. The video shows live footage that was taken by the late Wallace Gamble. Mr. Gamble owned a cab company downtown and also belonged to the Spokane Camera Club. As a result he took pictures of various people who walked past his business. The creation of motion pictures was not a common thing for everyday people but Mr. Gamble shot film with his small motion picture camera. These films had no sound but as a man in his 90s, Mr. Gamble went back and narrated this footage. Music was also added. Although you will not see pictures of any Asians, you will see examples of other diverse people. Be looking for people of color, the aged, disabled, those representing religion, those of riches, and those who are impoverished. Let’s take a look.
I find this footage hugely interesting. Were you able to pick out the diverse subcultures I spoke of earlier? You probably noted the black man, the man without arms, the blind lady and her sister, perhaps the old lady Emma and others. One might ask the question of where some Japanese people were in this footage? Certainly these pictures are a snapshot in time and there may have not been any Japanese people around the camera at the time. Perhaps a more plausible answer is that the separation was such that they remained isolated in their area of town, especially during wartime. Did you by any chance hear Mr. Gamble’s reference to the man who ran the Speak Easy during prohibition in Trent Alley? Recall that Trent Alley is synonymous with Japanese Alley. A Speak Easy was a place that sold illegal liquor during prohibition.
During and around the time that the interment was occurring, there were many people who opposed Roosevelt’s decision to sign Executive Order 9066. His wife Eleanor Roosevelt was one of them. She had apparently met privately with her husband on several occasions opposing it. Another was FBI Director, J. Edgar Hoover because he felt that any spies had already been arrested shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor. There were others like clergy, school principals, and University Presidents. There were 5 Japanese basketball players on Whitworth’s team in 1944.
Even so, there was a predominance of suspicion, resentment, and distrust that was cast upon the Japanese Americans and Japanese citizens here in 1942. This was largely caused by creating the illusion of fear promoted by the media and posed by the government. General Earl Warren uttered his words creating suspicion across the nation. Lieutenant DeWitt was quoted as saying, “A Jap is a Jap” a reason for imprisoning 120,000 innocent people, most of whom were American Citizens. There is no question that the attacks on Pearl Harbor were horrendous, however the Japanese in this country were caught in the crossfire and it was unfair on ethical, moral, and constitutional levels.
My question is whether or not we are duplicating the mistakes of our past? So much that is read and heard on the radio is inflammatory of people from the Middle East or those of the Muslim faith. We fear the Hispanics and others who seek refuge, residence, and work in America. It comes as a repetitive soft beat and also in a loud tenor. We have been told over and over again that terrorists are planning to harm us and that these people are of Middle Eastern descent. An occasional, impetuous teenager is caught with a plan sometimes setup by the authorities. We seem to be conditioned to fear the red, orange, and yellow threat levels by Homeland Security. And every visit to the airport is a further diminishment of our constitutional rights based on a foundation of imposed fear. And perhaps as we exist and go about our days, we ourselves become indifferent to our fellow man, women, and child. Perhaps we harbor suspicion, distrust or even hatred on conscious or unconscious levels of those who look different than us, or those from diverse backgrounds.
We all agree that there must never be another event like the one that imprisoned 120,000 Japanese people. And as such, perhaps we can recognize the unfounded fear and rhetoric that leads to such actions. Perhaps each and every one of us can question so-called facts and the merit of information that is being said. Perhaps we can reject it when it threatens human rights, the constitution of this country, and the care of our fellow man… of all men and women. Perhaps we can deeply question our own opinions and feelings of others, and groups of others and determine whether or not they are truly valid. Thank you very much.

A Glimpse into the Japanese Internment Camps: Recollections of Dorothy Ikuko Amatatsu-Watanabe

Original version in Nostalgia Magazine, March 2010
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Perhaps my first inkling of the Japanese Internment Camps occurred when I was a boy. As a youngster, I occasionally visited my Uncle Minnie and Aunt Sarah who lived in San Jose. New to San Jose, Minnie bought a home in 1944; a small, comfortable house on 21st Avenue along the Coyote Creek. In the back of their place there was a vegetable garden and a steep slope, tangled with brush which led to the water below. One day while exploring beyond the garden, I came across an unusual find. There were dishes with Japanese symbols and old bottles. My cousins and I later spent endless hours excavating where numerous artifacts were found. The items weren’t necessary trash and they included a bronze shrine, a letter opener, toys, and Japanese art pieces. All of it was interesting to me and little did I understand how these artifacts came to be deposited here.
Some 30 years before, Minnie, with a chunk of his life’s savings, purchased the home from a realtor. In discussing the purchase with an aunt, I learned that the house belonged to a Japanese family and that they were called to task. During the Japanese internment relocation in 1942, the family was forced to move. Upon moving in, my aunt recalled that paper lanterns adorned each bedroom.
With little time to react, tens of thousands of Japanese families were forced to leave their homes. Japanese who were lucky enough to sell, got a little for their homes, businesses, and possessions. Many more lost nearly everything as they were forcibly relocated to one of ten internment camps around the country. I now realize that in an urgent scramble, the Japanese family who owned the house before my uncle were burying or tossing their non-critical possessions over the bank, likely preparing for a quick sell of their home. Kitchen utensils, decorations, and other items had to go quickly. There is no doubt that some Japanese families hid their possessions and treasures with the hopes of returning some day to retrieve them. While adventurous at the time, those archeological digs behind Uncle Minnie’s garden haunt me now.
Following the Japanese attack on Peal Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt hurled forth an order that would leave a lurid, indelible mark on American history. Infamously known as Executive Order 9066, Roosevelt’s proclamation altered the lives of 120,000 Japanese people by ripping them from their homes and placing them in concentration camps, less drastically known as “Internment Camps.” People of Japanese heritage living in the western portions of Washington, Oregon, and California, in proximity to “military zones” were relocated far and away from their homes. Seventy percent of these Japanese people were American citizens. Spokane was outside of the evacuation zone and many Japanese people fled there.
Ikuko “Dorothy” Amatatsu Watanabe
More recently, I was able to synthesize a greater understanding by interviewing Ikuko “Dorothy” Amatatsu Watanabe who was interned at Manzanar and Minidoka. These concentration camps were located in California and Idaho respectively. Complete with photographs, letters, and telegrams, Dorothy offered a remarkable oral history-a critical time in her life as a senior in high school-and of a historical blemish that altered the lives of her family and other Japanese on the West Coast. As a good student, Dorothy was anticipating some great things. She had a scholarship at Washington State College in Home Economics which she was going to pursue after high school.
Many Japanese who endured these U.S. concentration camps are reserved about the ordeal and silent in discussing their experiences. On the other hand, Dorothy has spent countless hours talking to school children, historians, and others about her experiences. In vivid detail, she is able to describe her childhood, family, the time surrounding March 30, 1942, and her time in the concentration camps.
Born on August 13, 1923, Dorothy was the youngest of four daughters. Like her sisters, Elsie, Kay and Rose, Dorothy was given an American name along with her Japanese one. While the two older girls were born in Seattle, the younger two were born on Bainbridge Island.
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Dorothy and her older sister, Rose. 1928.
Dorothy and her sisters were American citizens, and like their parents, they were loyal and devoted to America. Dorothy’s parents, Yoshiaki and Taka Amatatsu, however, were not citizens until much later in life when they were allowed to apply for citizenship.
Born in Japan, Dorothy’s parents had a prearranged marriage. Her father was attending medical school in Japan when the Russo-Japanese war broke out. Drafted as a medic, Yoshiaki would not return to medical school after the war, but instead, immigrated to Seattle in 1913. His bride, Taka, who received her college education in Japan, served as a math teacher at the Bailey Gatzert Elementary School in Seattle where many Japanese students attended. Both Yoshiaki and Taka were of Samurai ancestry. In fact, Dorothy showed me a picture of her grandfather dressed in a traditional Samurai outfit. He was a Shinto priest.
When Dorothy was six years old, the family received word that Taka’s father was gravely ill. Both Dorothy and her mother took a freighter back to Japan.
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Dorothy with her mother, grandmother, grandfather and cousins during a visit to Japan. This was the first of several visits that Dorothy made to Japan.
During their six month stay, Taka’s father miraculously regained his health. There is little doubt that the reuniting of father, daughter, and grand daughter has something to do with the healing process. An old photograph in Dorothy’s collection shows her as a cute little girl at her Bainbridge home. Still another photograph shows Dorothy with her mother, grandmother, grandfather, and cousins during that trip to Japan.
Finding meaningful employment in Seattle was a tough prospect for Yoshiaki as many prejudices against the Japanese existed, both before and after the war. Working as a janitor for Seattle General Hospital, Yoshiaki was ready for a venue change when their friends, the Sakuma family, invited them to help start a strawberry farm on Bainbridge Island in about 1918. A fairly short distance across the water from Seattle, the family first rented a home. Later they purchased a home with the title in the name of their oldest daughter. Dorothy remembers the family working the farm. Prior to the strawberry farm, the Amatatsu’s had never cultivated food. Dorothy recalled that there was a learning curve in the early days, especially with a family of girls. Since 1915, the Sakuma family has continued raising berries and they are a major producer in Washington State, now in the Burlington area.
Dorothy explained that many Japanese families who were not citizens could not purchase homes. Instead, they enlisted the help of straw buyers who were citizens. Sometimes those straw purchasers were sons or daughters, friends, or others. Essentially, many Japanese families owned homes but the title was held in someone else’s name. After several years of imprisonment in the internment camps, countless families returned to find that their homes and possessions had been sold, taken, or were simply gone. Some properties were bulldozed. Upon their return, Japanese from the camps had to begin afresh; many found new places to live; still others in despair moved back to Japan.
Teddy was the Amatatsu’s family dog. He was a Miniature Fox Terrier who lived on the strawberry farm. Remarkably smart and loyal, Teddy loved his owners and they adored him. On his five-acre farm, Teddy frolicked and watched over the family.
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Dorothy Amatatsu and Teddy at their strawberry farm.
Life on the ranch was established and good. Affectionately, Teddy cuddled each night between Dorothy and her sisters, and enjoyed taking baths just like the rest of the family. But on March 30, 1942, all of this was to drastically change… again. Even before that, Teddy knew that something was wrong because Yoshiaki had been had been forcibly taken away-far away
Just days before throughout Bainbridge Island, posters were tacked up on walls and street posts. Dorothy recalled that the demands placed on the Japanese people were ominous and clear.
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Demand poster tacked up around Bainbridge Island.
Signed by J.L. DeWitt, Lieutenant General of the U.S. Army, these posters had bold declarations that read: “Instructions to all JAPANESE living on Bainbridge Island… The following instructions must be observed…” In her scrapbook, Dorothy showed me one of the posters. She explained that the Japanese had only a week to prepare for the move. To make matters worse, a curfew was imposed and all arrangements could only be made during the daylight hours-a difficult task. DeWitt seemingly had no sympathies for the Japanese Americans being sent away. He was quoted as saying, “A Jap is a Jap.”
Since Dorothy’s father was a community leader who helped others translate letters in English and Japanese, he was singled out shortly after the Pearl Harbor attack and sent to an alien detention prison in Seattle. Dorothy remembers visiting him while he was behind bars. From there he was further separated from the family and sent to North Dakota and New Mexico.
Dorothy described her father as an adventurous, gentle, and caring man who loved his family. In fact, when he was 87, Dorothy recalled that her father visited her in California. With heartfelt sympathies and tears, he apologized that he had nothing to give her; that he was not as successful as his brothers; that he had lost his wealth and had nothing.
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Dorothy’s father, Yoshiaki Amatatsu in 1971.
By this time, his wife Taka was in a nursing home and Yoshiaki was traveling alone. He felt stripped of his life and dignity, especially when he compared himself to others. Dorothy assured him that he had, indeed, offered the best gift of all to their family-the gospel.
Dorothy’s mother, Taka, was a pleasant, loving, and Christian woman. She tended to be strict like a disciplined teacher, but always had the best intentions for her daughters.
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Dorothy’s mother, Taka Amatatsu on the farm.
Dorothy explained that Taka instilled in her daughters the meaning of sincerity and responsibility. She taught her daughters to be kind and truthful, and not to say things unless they were accurate.
Interestingly, the imprisonment of the Japanese on Bainbridge Island was the first of this mammoth effort. In fact it would be used as a model for all the other “evacuations” that would occur in Washington, Oregon, and California. Each family member was allowed to take two suitcases which included blankets, clothing, toiletries, and eating utensils. Dorothy recalled that two suitcases did not hold much and that they were small and did not have wheels like they do today.
Fortunately, during the mad scramble, Dorothy’s oldest sister was able to secure a trusted Filipino man named Mike Corpus, to watch over the house and strawberry farm. Taka knew very little English and making such arrangements herself would have been impossible. That year the strawberry crop was exceptional… but the Amatatsu family would not see any of those profits.
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A high school picture of Dorothy.
And besides the strawberries, Dorothy was finishing her senior year of high school where she served as the class treasurer. Because of the curfew and bad timing, Dorothy, along with 13 other Japanese seniors were unable to attend the Senior Sneak and the Senior Ball at Bainbridge High School. Principal Roy Dennis made a plea to the army requesting special permission for Dorothy and her Japanese classmates to attend the Senior Ball-the request was denied.
Enforced by the military, 276 Japanese arrived at the Anderson Ferry Dock on Bainbridge Island on March 30, 1042. Dorothy and her family knew them all. Trucks were used to take the Japanese and their luggage from their homes and to the dock. The Anderson Dock is a short distance from what is now the Winslow Ferry Terminal. Dorothy remembered that an armed soldier was assigned to each Japanese family. Caucasian friends, neighbors, soldiers, classmates and others wept as their Japanese counterparts were being gathered and hauled away. Many of those relationships had been forged over the course of decades and all of it seemed ruthless and unfair. Caucasians tried to encourage their Japanese friends by saying, “Don’t worry, you’ll be right back home in no time.” With staunch dedication to America, the Japanese cooperated with the demands while Caucasians looked on in horror. The people referred to the event as, “Shikataganai,” interpreted as, “It can’t be helped.” The ferry left at 11:20 a.m. on this gloomy Monday morning.
Once ferried to Seattle, Dorothy and the others were placed on a train destined for an unknown location. Shades on the passenger windows were pulled down tight and none of the Japanese prisoners were told where they were going. Since it was April 1, during the journey, Dorothy rationalized that all of this must be some kind of an April Fools joke-except nothing about it was funny.
To Manzanar
Three days later, Dorothy arrived at a place called Manzanar which is located in California at the foothills of the Sierra Nevada range. Manzanar is 230 miles northeast of Los Angeles in a dusty, cold, desolate area complete with sagebrush and abundant nothingness.
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The desolate Manzanar Concentration Camp.
Once they arrived, the Japanese were issued aviation goggles, a pea coat, and a tin cup. Later, Dorothy and the others would rudely discover why the goggles and pea coats were issued.
Manzanar was one of ten permanent centers where Japanese Americans were imprisoned during World War II. Although tenderly referred to as “Internment Camps,” Manzanar, like the others, were truly Concentration Camps. This variety of semantic alteration, borrowed from earthquake evacuation terminology, was commonly used in the imprisonment of the Japanese. Other flowery terms such as “Reception Centers,” “Relocation Centers,” and “Evacuees” were also used to put a soft touch on these Constitutional violations.
When Dorothy, her mother, and three sisters arrived in Manzanar, they noted that this gated place was a series of shacks, lined up, and parallel to each other. Tar paper served as outer shells on the buildings. At first, there were missing windows in the shacks. Eight people were assigned to Dorothy’s room making for a crowded place. There were unfilled mattresses and each person was required to stuff their own beds with straw, otherwise known as “tick.”
By and large, Manzanar was a hellish, make-shift city with all the basics. Besides the shacks, it had a mess hall, clinic, and post office which were manned by the prisoners. It had a barber shop, beauty salon, and school rooms throughout the place. Workers were paid a pittance to conduct their jobs. Bearded and scruffy contractors milled around the place making the new tenants nervous. A common bathroom consisting of eight toilets and offering no privacy complicated the matter. Females enlisted the help of Japanese men and boys to safely escort them to the bathroom.
Manzanar was a wind swept and forsaken land complete with a dry terrain and mountains looming in the distance. When the cold wind blew, large amounts of sand and dirt would envelope the place and enter into shacks. With floors made of planks, Dorothy explained that fine particulate would enter in through the cracks thickly coating everything and everyone inside. Dorothy recalled sleeping in her shack and awakening the next morning partially buried in dirt that had blown in. Now Dorothy understood why the pea coats and aviation goggles were issued. In March 1942, there were 251 visits to Manzanar’s clinic. All but two were for respiratory ailments.
About two weeks after their arrival at Manzanar. Dorothy and her family were notified that Teddy Dog had died. Apparently, after the family’s departure, he stopped eating and could not reconcile the loneliness. While the Bainbridge prisoners were unable to bring their pets, the other detainees from California could. All of it was unfair and Teddy’s death haunts Dorothy to this day.
Supplied with a mess hall card, Dorothy and the others, at first, were offered food that was disgusting.
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Each person had a mess hall pass. This was Dorothy’s.
On the menu, prisoners were offered canned wieners, white rice, canned bread pudding, and canned spinach. Dorothy recalled thinking that the “spinach,” very likely, was sagebrush packed in a can. Prior to this time, she had never heard of canned spinach.
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People of all ages in line for one of the Manzanar mess halls.
Perhaps the food got better as food processing units were developed at the camp. Tofu and Shoyu, both made from soybeans, were later produced at Manzanar in substantial quantities. In fact, Manzanar was largely self-supported in nearly every aspect by the summer of 1942.
Like any city, Manzanar had an inner dark side too. There was infighting, gangs, and dissention between some groups. Dorothy recalled a riot or demonstration which took place on December 2, 1942 close to her barracks. During the uprising, many of the inhabitants were merely spectators but military police responded against all. Two young men were shot and killed by military police. One of them was shot in the back and at least ten others were wounded by bullet fire. Dorothy knew the boys who died and they were innocent bystanders.
Despite it all, the inhabitants of Manzanar were productive, organized, and mostly dedicated to making the situation the best they could. Socials, follies, dances, and games occurred. There was a makeshift tennis court and football fields too. Landscaping, complete with a rose garden and an outside theater were all part of the place.
Dorothy met her future husband while at Manzanar where both of them worked for $16 a month. Hideo (pronounced HeeDayo) was a truck driver and Dorothy worked in the personnel office. Hideo was incarcerated and sent to the camp when he was 21. After Manzanar, Hideo served in the military as an interpreter. When the war broke out, his listing was 4C or enemy alien. Later, when he entered the military he was listed 1A in the draft, a respectable rank.
To Minidoka
In March 1943 after the uprising, Dorothy and the rest of her family requested a transfer and, surprisingly, it was granted. Dorothy recalled that fellow Manzanar prisoners in her same block threw a farewell party for the women. It was a tearful departure and many friends offered the family blankets. Dorothy explained that their belongings had been picked up the previous day and it was extremely cold. Their new location would be Minidoka and it was located in south-central Idaho in Jerome County. This time, the train ride included open shades. A picture shows Dorothy, her sisters and mother on the steps of their Minidoka shack. At 3800 feet above sea level, Minidoka had seasonal temperatures that ranged between 30 degrees below zero and 104 degrees.
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Dorothy in the center surrounded by her mother and sisters outside their Minidoka shack.
With a human capacity of 10,000, many of the Japanese (7,200) at Minidoka came from “Camp Harmony” in the Puyallup area. The Western Washington Fair Grounds was used as a temporary holding tank before they were taken to Minidoka. Much like Manzanar, Minidoka was a desolate area with sagebrush, mosquitoes, and dust storms.
Dorothy would stay at Minidoka for about ten weeks before being allowed to move to Chicago on a work release program. Being the youngest, it would have been customary for Dorothy to stay close to her mother. Taka, however, wanted Dorothy to get out and make something of her life. At different times, two of Dorothy’s sisters would also leave Minidoka to continue their lives. But Dorothy’s mother and sister, Rose would remain and later be reunited with Yoshiaki. During their separation, Yoshiaki was imprisoned in distant camps away from the family. Taka, Yoshiaki, and Rose left Minidoka in 1946 and returned to Bainbridge Island.
After The Camps
Once in Chicago, Dorothy worked at Traveler’s Aid, a governmental social service organization. She lived with the family of a Methodist minister who took her in like one of his own. Reverend Raymond Laury and his wife, Zella, had five daughters and all of them were friendly, loving people. Dorothy cooked for the family and had a secure place to live. She also continued her education. At that time, there weren’t many Japanese people in Chicago.
Hideo had left Manzanar and joined the service in 1944. He went to Language School at Fort Snelling, Minnesota. After his military experience, he found himself in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Working in a leather processing plant, Hideo lost a finger in an industrial accident. Dorothy explained that Hideo was tired after traveling to visit her in Chicago. Upon his return and while at work he lost his concentration and finger. But this did not slow up the couple. Dorothy and Hideo were married in Chicago in July, 1945.
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Shortly after, Dorothy and Hideo would leave Chicago to move Hideo’s mother from Manzanar. To their surprise, the place had changed incredibly. There were rock and Japanese gardens, and lawns too. Huge quantities of vegetables were grown at Manzanar and it was still a self-sustaining place. In fact, agricultural produce was shipped from Manzanar to parts of Los Angeles and to Arizona. All of this, of course, was a testament to the people who were forced to live at Manzanar. At the time of their visit, the population was vastly depleted and contained mostly the elderly and very young school children.
Dorothy recalled that the Amatatsu family had a family reunion in Denver, Colorado, where her sisters had relocated. The occasion was memorable and, as fate would have it, this was the same day that the United States dropped an atomic bomb called “Little Boy” on Hiroshima. That day was Monday, August 6, 1945.
Dorothy returned to Bainbridge Island for a time to work and help settle her parents. At this point, her parents were quite elderly and could not work. Many of the strawberry fields were no longer owned by Japanese and, instead, were operated by Filipino workers. Although the Island people were pleasant, the area was unkempt and changed. Dorothy commuted to Seattle each day and worked for the Federal Housing Department for a time.
Eventually, the couple settled in the Glendale and Pasadena areas where they a developed their lives and careers. Hideo received a chemistry degree from UCLA and became a successful chemist. He spent his career working for Aerojet Corporation and Beckman Instruments. Dorothy worked for the Treasury Department in Los Angeles before the couple began their family. Dorothy and Hideo had two boys who became highly educated and leaders in their disciplines. Dorothy recalls that discrimination and mean spirits were encountered from time to time, especially when finding housing- but over a long period, this has subsided. Dorothy and Hideo were married 63 years before his death in 2009.
All this time, Dorothy has kept her interment experiences fixed in her memory banks. She realizes the constitutional injustices that impacted her family and thousands of others. As a promoter of social justice and a conscientious person, Dorothy recounted her experiences to me as a matter of fact- the way it was. While most people in the same moccasins might harbor a longstanding grudge, there is no bitterness when conversing with Dorothy.
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Dorothy Amatatsu Watanabe smiles for the camera.
Her strong faith and a loving family has been a stabilizer. Out of Dorothy’s collective set of experiences, perhaps the most haunting has to do with Teddy… the little dog she never saw again.

The Spokane Free Speech Fights

Original publication in Nostalgia Magazine, November 2009.
This November, precisely 100 years ago, Spokane was in the dark, bloody throws of the infamous Free Speech Fights. The Spokane fight was actually the second of many fights that would occur around the country. The first one occurred shortly before in Missoula.
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I.W.W. gatherings like this one occurred across the country. One of the first was in Spokane.
Although buried in the archives of our past, four publications including the Spokesman-Review, The Daily Chronicle, The Spokane Free Press, and the Industrial Worker covered the news as astonishing events unfolded.
With components of economic class disparities, constitutional violations, mass civil disobedience, brutality, and prejudice, news of the turmoil flooded over the entire nation– putting Spokane on the cerebral maps of many people. As part of a nostalgic review, one will appreciate a feel for the labor mindset, not only here in the Northwest, but throughout the country.
In the mid to late 1800s, Spokane’s economic growth had been spurred on by big enterprises. As a hub, the Inland Empire was in the midst of the lumber, railroad, mining, and orchard industries. Each generated huge sums of money and the region was growing by leaps and bounds. Laborers by the thousands were needed to make it all happen. During this time, not only here in Spokane, but across the country, a paradigm shift was occurring; a consciousness; a meta-awareness of the economic classes, and a backlash. With the industrial revolution at the end of its pendulum stroke, many laborers had become cognizant of the disparities that separated the working and upper employing classes. With generations of noted hard labor and little to show for it, many workers were disenchanted with the status quo. The working class was merely existing and generally becoming poorer while the employing, capitalistic, upper class was prospering. Each class recognized the differences, but only one of them felt hindered and in need of change.
In 1905, Chicago held its first Industrial Workers of the World meeting. Otherwise known as I.W.W. members, Wobblies, or Wobbs, this union group understood the need for the working class to organize, unite, and to communicate with each other. Derivation of the term, “Wobbly,” comes from a Chinese restaurateur who referred to these members as, “Eye-Wobbelu-Wobbelu.” The name morphed and stuck and the organization grew exponentially with I.W.W. union halls popping up across the country.
Understanding the differences between the labor and upper classes, and perhaps long suffering and generational impact, some leaders amongst this group discussed alternative economic systems. Opposing capitalism based on the personal and economic tolls it had taken on workers and families here and abroad, many extolled the possibilities of other systems which included socialism or communism or anarchism, each frightening and counter propositions in America. Wobblies yearned for a change that balanced the classes and offered mechanisms that promoted fairness. They felt, to some degree, that as skilled laborers and toilers, they should actually be in more of a position of control. Many I.W.W. leaders wrote of the need for safe, sanitary work conditions, the eight hour work day, and fair, livable wages. In fact, it can be largely argued that because of the efforts of the I.W.W., these benefits were incorporated into labor laws formed decades ago. Wobblies also understood the impact that industrial accidents had on workers, and that most accidents occurred towards the end of extra long workdays. One motto included, “An injury to one is an injury to all.” Writers such Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and James Rowen spoke out and wrote volumes about these important problems. When accidents and disease occurred to workers, little or no health care existed to help. Instead, many workers were blinded, maimed, or killed on the job-and employers seemingly did not care as profits were the primary concern.
Huge prejudices wore heavily against the Wobblies, resulting in many told and untold abuses. With the anti-capitalism sentiments of some coupled with the imposed American fears of socialism or other counter thinking, the organization was seemingly painted with a broad, biased brush. This was especially so because many Wobblies were uneducated, poor, migratory, immigrants, and people of color. Many paid no taxes and had little or no assets. Other than the blanket rolls and clothes on their backs, and union cards, many Wobblies owned nothing-and they were exploited by the thousands. As a whole, Wobblies were hard working, salt-of-the-earth people whose basic needs of food, shelter, and existence were no different than others. While many were simply muscles and laborers, many others were skilled craftsmen. On the same token, Wobblies were the lifeblood of industry and, without them, commerce and industrial output were hindered. Any discussions or behaviors that could potentially sway attitudes in or out of the workplace were highly punishable by trumped-up charges or vigilante forces. Industry foremen had spies and undercover Pinkertons looking out for I.W.W. members. When found, they were often fired, beaten, or killed. Many were tarred, feathered, and run out of town. Some were shot or hanged. I.W.W. halls were raided with records confiscated and contents destroyed. Leaders were arrested.
In 1908, thirty-one employment agencies lined Stevens Street in Spokane. Known as job “sharks,” most of these businesses were in cahoots with the foremen of various industrial operations. Charging a dollar a job to each worker, these agencies were directing workers to jobs that either did not exist, or to ones that did not pay their workers. Outside signs on these businesses lured workers to “inquire within.” Wobblies complained that some businesses like the Somers Lumber Company had 3000 workers coming and going just to maintain a crew of fifty. The abuses were so blatant, that an I.W.W. leader named James Walsh came to Spokane in 1908 to address the problem. Walsh spoke to and befriended many of the near-destitute workers and the local I.W.W. chapter flourished. By March of 1909, nearly fifteen-hundred workers had enrolled.
At first, Wobblies began speaking publicly in front of the businesses that were causing such trouble. Collectively, however, the employment agencies pressured the Spokane City Council to pass a squelch ordinance that prevented street speaking. Instead, any public speaking was limited only in the city parks which were far away from the sharks. To devalue these nonconformists, Wobblies were portrayed as “hobos,” “un-American,” “bindlestiffs” and “no good troublemakers.” At first, the Wobblies obeyed the ordinance but the agencies continued their deceptive ways unobstructed. The I.W.W. carefully documented the continued abuses and lobbied the authorities to justifiably take action. Opposed to violence, Wobblies promoted change with the “tongue and pen.” But nothing was changing. When the Salvation Army, however, successfully motioned the City Council that they should be given the right to religiously speak on the streets, Wobblies constitutionally objected and took to their soapboxes in civil disobedience. Wobblies in great numbers were organized and speaking out. More of them came in on the freight trains.
Acting Police Chief, John T. Sullivan, announced that he and his team of marauders would arrest any violators… and they did by the hundreds.
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Acting Police Chief, John T. Sullivan
Sullivan stated, “I am no respecter of persons in this case, I wish the newspapers would call these people by the right name. They are anarchists, pure and simple and their song of the Red Flag is one of the most inflammatory things I have ever heard.” On the other hand, a bulletin posted by the I.W.W. read, “The I.W.W. and police have nothing in common. There can be no peace so long as the police use clubs and hose, and the I.W.W. uses the pen and tongue.” The Spokane Press headlines on November 1, 1909 stated, “7000 IWW MEN HERE FOR BATTLE.”
Aside from Chief Sullivan and the police force, other figures such as Judge Mann and the War Department had little regard for the free speech and human rights of the Wobblies. As public speakers were arrested on violations of street speaking or disorderly conduct, another Wobbly would simply take his place on the crate… only to be arrested too. Men were not the only ones arrested either. Edith Frenette, Agnes Thecla Fair, and others were arrested as well for street speaking or singing the Red Flag. Attorney Fred H. Moore, a Spokane resident since 1901, was retained by the I.W.W. as their chief legal representative. Moore took on the courts, filing complaints and writs of habeas corpus, and supporting the Wobblies.
Once arrested, Wobblies were abused and tortured by the police guards. Dozens of reports leaked out about the treatment received by those arrested. The Spokesman-Review’s Fred Niederhouser reported that groups of 28 men were smashed tightly inside an eight foot by seven foot jail cell, and that, “It took four cops to close the cell door. This was called the ‘Sweat Box’. The steam was turned on until the men nearly suffocated and were overcome with exhaustion. Then they were placed in ice cold cells and third-degreed in this weakened state. When the jail became overcrowded, an abandoned unheated schoolhouse, Franklin School, was used as a jail.” Space at Fort George Wright was also made to imprison Wobblies.
James Stark, a prisoner in the original Franklin School on Front Street (now Trent Street), kept a diary of his experiences. He told of how men were badly beaten, covered in blood, teeth knocked out, and bones broken. One man had a badly broken jaw.
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November 12, 1909 Spokesman Review photograph: Armed with rifles, policemen Dugger and Willis guard I.W.W. prisoners at the old Franklin School.
The Industrial Worker indicated that three men had died just after their release from the Franklin school jail. A funeral for one young man who was diabetic was organized by the I.W.W. Many of those jailed went on hunger strikes, not only on principle but also because of the horrid food that was offered. Stark wrote that for Thanksgiving, the only turkey eaten was the one drawn on the school’s chalkboard by an artistic prisoner. Chief Sullivan boasted that prisoners would get only bread and water on Thanksgiving Day. As many as 600 Wobblies were arrested. In some cases, men were jailed and released before breakfast the next day so they wouldn’t be fed at all. Some who were released, refused to budge in support of their peers despite the scurvy and intestinal problems that were rampant in the places.
The makeshift school jail was freezing cold. Refusing to chop and haul wood, Franklin school prisoners reportedly ripped the molding off the walls to burn for a warming fire.
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By November 1909 Franklin School was abandoned and used as a jail to imprison Wobblies.
Socialist orator and writer, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, pregnant, was also arrested as she walked to the meeting hall. During her one night stay in the jail, she reported on the brothel that was kept in the women’s section of the jail.
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Elizabeth Gurley Flynn around the time of the Spokane Fights.
Her jail cell contained two prostitutes who were systematically removed during the night to service certain paying customers.
Agnes Thecla Fair, who was arrested for street speaking, was taken into a darkened cell for questioning. When she refused to answer the police questions, one man made sexual threats while another unbuttoned her blouse. This sent her into “convulsions” and she was unable to eat or sleep after these events. Being released by the prison doctor and judge, she was taken by her comrades through the streets on a stretcher to her room.
Flynn wrote the news as editor of the Industrial Worker after the original editors were arrested. Chief Sullivan had the police go door to door and confiscate as many copies of the Industrial Worker as possible… but news of the abuses had already leaked out. As word of these constitutional and human violations washed across the country, hundreds of Wobblies hopped the freight trains to join the cause. In her autobiography, Flynn expressed that Wobblies came from across the country to support free speech rights and the plight of local workers. Many came from such places as Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Chicago, and towns in Montana.
By the end of November, 1909, things were looking grim for Spokane. Chief Sullivan indicated that the “I.W.W. agitation” was costing the city $100 per day, a significant sum of tax dollars in those days. Spokane citizens and high ranking members of the Women’s Club were speaking out in favor of the Wobblies. In fact, it was a member the Women’s club who bailed Flynn out of jail. Citizens took pity on the Wobblies and gave them fruit and Bull Durham tobacco as the police marched them through town. Furthermore, the courts were overwhelmed by huge numbers of complaints and attorney Fred Moore was not stopping his work. By November 29, 1909, remaining cases in Judge Mann’s court were transferred to Judge Hyde’s court. Judge Mann expressed a week earlier in open court that if he were an attorney he would not defend such cases. All of it was bad as locals and the rest of the country read of the atrocities.
With newspaper reports of jail conditions and Flynn’s description of Chief Sullivan’s jail house prostitution, a new low and turning point was established. The arrests slowed and stopped and those still imprisoned were released. Shortly after, Wobblies felt a bitter-sweet victory. Nineteen of the labor agencies had their licenses revoked; matrons, for the first time, were placed in the jail to supervise matters (even though the jail refused to pay to have them); the ordinance for street speaking was relaxed and modified; and some members of the police force were fired. Even Mayor Pratt, perhaps a little too late, admitted that he had helped men collect thousands of dollars from the sharks.
Other strange things happened following the Spokane Free Speech Fights. On August 15, 1910, an arsonist set the original Franklin school on fire. The building was gutted by the fire and the Milwaukee Railroad, who then owned the property, declared $25,000 in damages.
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Nothing now remains of the school where the Spokane WSU campus now resides. Later, on the chilly evening of January 5, 1911, Chief Sullivan was murdered in his home at 1314 Sinto Avenue. As Sullivan sat behind his lace curtains and bay window, a gunman from the outside shot a fatal bullet through his back.
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A modern look at the home where Chief Sullivan once lived.
The day before, the telephone lines to Sullivan and his neighbor’s house had been cut. In the Franklin fire and the Sullivan murder, no one was ever charged in the crimes. Flynn wrote that Sullivan’s murderer may have been one of the many who he brutalized.
Several authors, including Helen C. Camp, Ronald A. Myers, Dale Raugust, Robert L. Tyler, and others have offered illuminating descriptions of the events that surrounded the Spokane Free Speech Fights. Although not the last of the free speech battles, many more would ensue across the country in the years that followed. All of them were fueled by organized Wobblies wanting change, justice, and equalization of the classes.
The Red Flag
Written by Irishman Jim Connell in 1889
(To the tune of O Christmas Tree)
This song was associated with radical socialism. People caught singing this tune in Spokane during the Free Speech Fights were arrested.
The peoples’ flag is deepest red,
It shrouded oft our martyr’d dead
And ere their limbs grew stiff and cold,
Their hearts’ blood dyed its ev’ry fold.
Then raise the scarlet standard high,
Within its shade we’ll live and die,
Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer,
We’ll keep the red flag flying here.

Memories of the Pohl Spring Works

Original publication in Nostalgia Magazine, October 2009.
Jefferson Elementary School, on Spokane’s Grand Boulevard, was built in 1908. Along with the typical businesses like a grocery markets and gas stations, the Jefferson community had a unique neighbor–that neighbor was the Pohl Spring Works.
Only a few people these days understand the huge impact that Pohl Spring Works had on Spokane in the early 1900s… and to the present day. Brother and sister, Art Pohl and Anita Pohl-Roberts, and Jim Thosath are amongst these people. In the early days of the automobile, the company manufactured auto and truck suspension springs. Not only were these springs manufactured and used right here in Spokane, but they also permeated much of the nation. With competitors in Seattle and Michigan, Pohl Spring was a thriving operation.
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Pohl Spring Works, Circa 1917.
As kids, Art and Anita lived at 3430 South Grand Boulevard. In an interview, they recalled the Pohl Spring operation and also helping out after school and on weekends. Jim Thosath, now 84, was a general helper at the plant while he awaited military enlistment.
Until just recently, the old Pohl Spring building resided at 3725 South Grand Boulevard across the street from what is now Albertsons Grocery Store. The business left this location in 1962, but a faded building sign which read, “Pohl Guaranteed Springs” was a distant reminder. Although the company relocated to the Spokane Valley many years ago, the early facility sat kitty corner and down from Jefferson School. A strip mall now resides on the property.
Born in Germany in 1861, Joseph Pohl immigrated to America, first arriving in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. As a young man, like his father before him, Joseph received valuable training as a steel worker at the Krupp Steel Works in Essen, Germany.
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Joseph and Anna Pohl, Circa 1890s.
From Sheboygan, Joseph and his bride, Anna, and their three children, made their way west to Spokane in 1904. During his early days in Spokane, Joseph worked for the railroad making springs for the coach cars. Equipped with knowledge of steel fabrication and heat tempering, Joseph wanted his own business. So, nestled in the Jefferson neighborhood, Joseph started a business manufacturing straight razors and surgical supplies in 1915.
Spokane was a rough and tumble place in the early 1900s and Anna Pohl took no chances with the prospects of riffraff. Railroad workers spending long hours in saloons and transients along the tracks and streets were a crusty and a belligerent bunch. For this reason, Anna resourcefully kept a single shot, 22 caliber pistol buried in her hair bun or hand muffs.
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Single shot pistol belonging to Anna Pohl.
Pohl Razor Company would only last two years. With the influx of automobiles, inferior roadways (nothing has changed), and the advent of the safety razors, business prospects were changing, but not in favor of straight razors. Joseph’s friends and acquaintances were asking him to repair their auto springs with more and more frequency. In short order, the demand for springs and repairs exceeded those for old-style straight razors and Pohl was thrust in a different direction.
Business continued to grow as new spring applications were needed. Besides auto springs, farmers and farm equipment dealers were in need of pea springs for their pea harvesting equipment. In fact, Art Jr. and Anita recalled working at the punching machine putting holes in the springs for a penny each. Fertilizer springs were also a hot item. Fertilizer was delivered into the soil by way of a spring and tube assembly and Pohl made these as well. Anita, Art, and Jim recall the huge furnaces, lathe, and mandrels used in the operation. They also recall some of the other workers like Lindsey Williams, Ernie McConnell and John Fallig. The construction of Grand Coolee Dam provided huge amounts of work at the plant as did projects from logging and railroad companies. At one point, during the dam’s construction, the business ran seven days a week to keep up with the demand. To the benefit of their patrons, Pohl engineered, designed, and fabricated springs of every variety under one roof. Besides springs, repairs of heavy equipment were common.
Mostly a family run operation, Joseph Pohl partnered with his three sons at the plant. Each one brought talents to the operation seemingly through their common steel-manufacturing bloodline.
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Workers at the Pohl Spring plant. Art Pohl, Sr on left; Albert Pohl in middle; unknown worker on right.
The oldest brother Bruno was the machinist; Albert ran the furnace; and Arthur Sr. managed the sales. Hired helpers assisted in between. After Arthur Sr. married, his wife Rowena worked in the office. They had two children, Art Jr. and Anita, who like their father, attended Jefferson School and spent time at the plant.
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This picture of a Jefferson classroom was taken circa 1908 shortly after the building was completed. Arthur Pohl, Sr. is the boy on the right, third from the front. Note the double barrel wood stove. Last year (2008), the school celebrated its 100th birthday.
Besides normal growing pains, work at Pohl Spring was not always smooth and calm. At one point, non-family workers wanted the shop to become a union one. Adamant that the shop would steer clear of unions, Joseph told his workers in broken English, “If ya go union, ya be locked out in da mornin.” Fortunately, the Pohl employees thought better of the idea and returned to unlocked doors the next day. During WWII, as a racist gesture, someone painted a Nazi swastika on the shop door. Joseph became so outraged, that he threatened to close down the facility for good. Of course this did not happen and Pohl Spring lives on to this day.
English did not come easy to Joseph and the telephone was his nemesis. When the company got one, it was a big deal. Business had grown to the point where significant communication needed to be carried out over the phone. Eventually, Grandpa Joseph had to be kicked out of the office because he refused to answer the phone. Instead, he would screech, “I vill not ansa dat phone, that #@!* damn ting!”
Numerous newspaper articles spanning the years highlighted the innovations at Pohl Spring. Ultra high-temperature furnaces, unlike others, were used to nearly liquefy selected Pittsburgh steel for fabrication. A special metal-hardening solution was also formulated for use at the plant. Additionally, overload springs were invented for Ford and other trucks and used extensively in this region. The work at the facility was not merely dedicated to heavy springs either. Tiny springs used for eye glasses were also in the mix of jobs. Clearly, no part was too big or small, and with a warranty and good people standing behind their products, the business flourished.
As Grandpa Joseph became older, the operation was left more and more to the children. Arthur Sr. was the primary manager of the plant. When he suddenly died in 1949 at age 51 of a heart attack, some business changes occurred. His wife Rowena later sold the operation marking the first change in ownership. To date, the company has changed hands three times with Bob Williams as the current owner. Even so, memories of Joseph, and Anna, Arthur Sr., Bruno, and Albert, live on. The family bible lists the births of the children, and the single shot pistol belonging to Anna’s hair bun still exists. Photographs and newspaper articles are relic reminders of the early Pohl Spring days and times in the Jefferson community-kitty corner from the school.
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Jefferson School children headed for home, 1957. Taken from Jefferson School’s front steps. Pohl Spring Works is on the far right. When this photo is magnified, many of these students are looking at the photographer.
As a remarkable sidebar, Anita recalls that her father brought figure skating to Spokane. Starting off as a barrel racer he later developed interests in figure skating. He fabricated his own blades in the shop and bolted them onto his work boots. Before too long, Arthur Pohl headed up a Spokane Figure Skating Club on 29th Avenue. Besides a backyard rink behind their home on Grand Boulevard, a frozen pond and clubhouse where the Waterford now stands served as an early venue for skating and winter fun.
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Arthur Pohl, Sr. and daughter Anita pose at a skating rink, circa 1939. Arthur was heavily involved in bringing figure skating to Spokane. An outdoor skating rink and clubhouse once resided where the Waterford retirement facility is now located.
A newspaper article from yesteryear discussed how Art Pohl was specially manufacturing skates for others. One such person was Claude Malone, “Spokane’s Skating Fireman of Station No. 9.” Art was also involved in the Artic and Hiks skating clubs. In fact, skating clubs from around the country sent their best skaters to compete here in Spokane.
Arthur Jr. tells of another Pohl memory. Young Art’s first car was a 1953 Ford Mainliner. As many young men of the day knew, the car demanded dual exhaust for more power, speed, and sound. In the wee hours, Arthur Jr. smuggled the rig into the spring shop to install the modified exhaust system. Much to the surprise of everyone, the police were summoned on a break-in call and Art had to explain his presence. Perhaps this is the reason why Arthur Jr. has had a long, successful career in law enforcement!
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Art Pohl, Jr. and Anita Pohl-Roberts.
As for Jim Thosath, he too was a Jefferson school kid. His father owed a garage and service station to the south of Pohl Spring which is how Jim became acquainted with the Pohl family. He recalled that Joseph owned a camel-colored Model A Ford. Commonly, Joseph would get a dollar of gas, get the windshield and headlights washed, get air in the tires, and beep the horn as he drove off-a ritual that is burned in Jim’s memory. After Jim’s time at Pohl Spring, he entered the service. Afterwards, he became a successful machinist and contractor. He married his sixth grade Jefferson sweetheart, Lucy. Lucy recalled that she and a girlfriend walked by the place “hoping to get a look” at Jim.
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Lucy and Jim Thosath
Located at 6415 East Nixon in the Spokane Valley, Pohl Spring is still manufacturing springs of every description. Art and Anita expressed that they are proud of Pohl Spring and the business that associates their name. Art Pohl Jr. lives in Newberg, Oregon; and both Anita Pohl-Roberts and Jim and Lucy Thosath live in Spokane. Thanks to Joseph Pohl and his family nearly a century ago, the company still enjoys deep roots here in Spokane.

On Upbeat and Downbeat Words

Originally published in Kids: For Moms and Dads, May 2008.
When kids and adults think of speech-language therapy, they often think of it as working on the sounds that form the words we say. Certainly this is true, but speech is a lot more than just the articulation of sounds that stream from our mouths. Speech communication is a two-way street, an intricate system that includes deciphering elements of meaning, understanding, word finding and vocabulary, sentence formulation, and speech processing. The reasons why we speak to each other are important too. Along these same lines, speech includes the way we present ourselves during the process. Things like facial expressions, gestures, eye contact, presentation speed, and word selection are crucial facets of our speech.
In speech-language classes, we sometimes talk about word choice and the importance of being upbeat in our words and conversations. It’s easy to select words that are negative over ones that are positive and most people don’t give it much consideration. Have you ever spoken to someone who left you feeling depressed because of their word choice? Words that are upbeat give listeners a feeling of contentment and ease. They have a calming effect and brighten conversations. Importantly, they offer some of the building blocks to leadership, making friends, and effective communication. On the other hand, words that are downbeat create negativity and dampen the conversational mood. They can be offensive and often restrict the message and distract from the communication process. They leave listeners with a bad feeling. Interestingly, both upbeat and downbeat words are conversationally contagious.
A third category of words termed, neutral are neither upbeat nor downbeat. They serve as nondescript nouns, verbs, and articles. Typically, neutral words carry no implications or connotations, and lack linguistic color and zest. Words such as home, walk, plant, of, and, the are examples of neutral words. Importantly, neutral words can be converted into upbeat ones with a little skill. Consider the following changes: Castle/home, Mosey/walk, Greenery/plant. There is not a lot that can be done with connector words like, The, And, Of, and Is. But that’s alright…articles or connector words have no content, and they make up only a small part of our language.
Moms and dads can try this fun activity that increases awareness of upbeat, downbeat, and neutral words, sentences, and ideas in our conversations. After explaining the difference between the three word categories have your child identify which are which in examples that you give. Start with individual words like, Happy, Smelly, Boring, Street, Exciting, Ugly, Colorful, and Cruddy. Then try sentences like, I really like that artwork or What stinks in here? or This tastes really good. Ask your child if the word or sentence is upbeat positive, downbeat negative, or free wheeling neutral. Talk about how each of you determined which words or sentences were which. You can also make up fictitious words and determine the feelings they exude, like, Superlicious or Ginormous or Crudola. Make up your own sentences and have fun. Try experimenting with ways you can re-word an idea using all upbeat words and sentences. With a little practice, you’ll be surprised at how fast children tune into the difference. You will also be amazed at how easy it is to replace downbeat words with upbeat ones.

Overcoming The Hurdle Of Controlling Stoma Noise

Originally published in Advance for Speech-Language Pathologists & Audiologists, February 24, 1997.

Speech-Language Pathologists are constantly faced with therapeutic obstacles and patient challenges. For the speech clinician who works closely with laryngectomized individuals, the control of stomal noise is sometimes an issue and a hurdle to be overcome. Stoma noise, also referred to as “stoma blasts,” is the unwanted high-frequency noise generated from the tracheostoma in a tracheostomized person. Stoma noise is frequently observed in laryngectomees and stems from pulmonary air turbulence at the stoma site.

All people have the innate and over-learned need to fill the lungs prior to producing an utterance. This human function is deeply ingrained and is an integral part of speech communication. Due to major changes in the respiratory tract, laryngectomees must learn deliberate techniques to eliminate or sharply reduce stomal noise.

Stomal noise is not just a negative deviation of alaryngeal speech. It is also a deviation causing noisy and conspicuous breathing. Most laryngectomees undergo a period during which stomal noise is observed. For some it is an obvious aberration that is reckoned with and self-controlled. For others it is an uncontrolled, unconscious deviation of speech and breathing that has several negative facets. Not only does stomal noise dramatically and adversely call attention to the patient’s neck and tracheostoma, but it makes the individual more conspicuous in social and public situations. On a subjective level, both educated and lay persons often find stoma noise to be strange and even alarming. Stomal noise is also responsible for masking the attempts to communicate by using alaryngeal means, such as esophageal speech and speech using an artificial larynx. Frequently the unwanted noise generated from the tracheostoma is in direct competition with the speech signal. The result is a range of unintelligibility and conspicuousness which can vary in severity among patients.

A chief objective of laryngectomee rehabilitation is to approximate normal speech. Even though alaryngeal speech with an electronic larynx, esophageal or tracheoesophageal punctured speech deviates from normal voice, it is important to strive for a production that closely resembles normalcy.

Rehab goals should not only address functional communication but the control of stoma noise and its perception by others. This is not always easy to accomplish, due to such reasons as decreased cognitive function, poor new learning skills, impaired auditory/speech perception skills and stomal size.

Therapy to eliminate stoma noise starts with education. Provide the patient with a basic education of anatomy and the changes resulting from the laryngectomy surgery. For many patients this is the first meaningful description of the surgery and the problems that need to be overcome. It is usually helpful to include the patient’s spouse or helper in the educational process.

Early intervention and education is key to controlling stoma noise. Patients who do not have early contact with an alaryngeal speech professional are at risk for developing detrimental speech and secondary behaviors. Once these inferior habits are established, they are more difficult to change and eliminate. If the patient is fortunate enough to have pre-operative time with a therapist, this is a good time to briefly discuss stomal noise control. Afterward frequent mini-discussions and focused therapy can relate to stoma noise.

Several worthy techniques can be used together or individually to treat stomal noise. For patients who may have difficulty perceiving their own stomal noise, the use of a stethoscope or audio recording device as a feedback tool helps to demonstrate and highlight the problem.

Another helpful tool for patient feedback is a stomal whistle. This simple pneumatic device has a rubber flange attached to the oral end. When held to the tracheostoma, the whistle will sound at varying levels depending on the air moving through it. With the stomal whistle in place, the patient is instructed to produce sounds and words without sounding the whistle. To lighten-up the therapy process, it is humorous to tell the patient to not “blow the whistle on him/herself.”

Once an aided awareness of stomal noise has been established, the patient can be shown how to eliminate it. Carefully audio recording similar trials with and without stoma noise for the patient to review is helpful.

Since stoma noise can be observed even while producing the most minute utterance, the clinician should start with basic sounds and advance as necessary. For example, the clinician may wish to have the patient produce a voiceless plosive while carefully monitoring for stoma noise. Then, as the patient is able, the therapist can advance the patient by having him or her produce monosyllabic words, counting and so on. The key is to advance and increase the patient’s utterance length while minimizing or eliminating stoma noise. Another strategy involves having patients empty their lungs of air prior to producing a sound or a short utterance. Still, for other patients, it may be useful to have them whisper an utterance. Since whispering in a normal speaker requires less pulmonary demand, the laryngectomee can more easily relate to this mode of speech, and stoma noise is dramatically reduced. The clinician working with stomal noise will quickly find the techniques that are most successful with a given patient.

Sometimes a patient will demonstrate decreased cognitive function and new learning problems. Since the control of stoma noise requires the recall, re-adaptation and use of special strategies, some patients have more difficulty finding success. It may be helpful to enlist a friend of the patient to assist with home practice and exercises. New Voice clubs in the area also can provide valuable help and encouragement to the patient who is experiencing problems. Occasionally, the clinician will encounter a patient who simply cannot control stoma noise. This is usually due to cognitive dysfunction or entrenched habit.

Having an abnormally small tracheostoma can affect a patient’s basic pulmonary function in addition to alaryngeal speech. Stenosis of the tracheostoma is not uncommon in the laryngectomee population, and it can give rise to stoma noise and respiratory compromise. Importantly, if a patient demonstrates perpetual stoma noise during restful breathing and speech tasks, the size of the stoma should be inspected. As a general rule, the tracheostoma that is smaller than a dime or ones that are continually growing smaller are suspect. An abnormally small tracheostoma sometimes can act like an air nozzle, creating stomal noise at rest or during some level of physical activity. If a patient complains of fatigue and air resistance at the stomal site, especially during light-to-moderate physical activity, stomal revision surgery for enlargement should be considered by a surgeon.

A small tracheostoma, however, is not necessarily indicative of a problem. The laryngectomee–depending on gender, stature and respiratory status-will be more or less affected by the size of the tracheostoma. For example, a female who is 5-foot tall and weighs 110 pounds with a stoma one centimeter in diameter may have little difficulty. But the same stoma dimension in a 6-foot male may be more problematic in terms of stoma noise and breathing during any activity. This problem may be further complicated if there are components of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma or other respiratory problems.

Nevertheless, stoma noise is an important aspect of rehabilitation that must be questioned and addressed in every laryngectomee. Since stoma blasts can affect intelligibility and attract negative attention, early intervention by a skilled professional is essential. Several successful techniques can be employed by the alaryngeal speech instructor to increase patient awareness and reduce, if not eliminate, this abnormal sound.

There’s Nothing Like the Sweet Spot: Placement of the Artificial Larynx

Original publication in the AKSHA Voice, October 1997.

A large proportion of laryngectomees find communicative success by using an artificial larynx (AL). While 40-60% of laryngectomees, or anyone for that matter, can learn functional esophageal speech or possibly be a candidate for tracheo-esophageal punctured speech, it is estimated that over 95% of this population can use an AL device. Other patients with conditions that render the vocal folds useless also benefit from the AL. Artificial larynges are typically electronic devices that generate a focused tone that penetrates the neck or cheek. It is this penetrating tone that is articulated for speech.

A chief objective of laryngectomy rehabilitation is to approximate normal speech. Even though speech with an electronic device deviates from normal production, there are a number of variables that will enhance the success with an AL device. One such variable is the optimal location of the AL device on the neck or submandibular area. Finding the Sweet Spot can be likened to back scratching; that one particular spot makes all the difference in the world!

Speech-language clinicians who introduce the new laryngectomee to an AL device are commissioned with finding the Sweet Spot. The Sweet Spot is a term that refers to the one or two locations on the patient�s neck that most effectively transfers the speech signal into the pharynx and mouth for speech. Without proper placement on the neck, the laryngectomee will experience, unintelligibility, excessive noise, poor signal transfer and frustration. So let�s take a closer look at how best to find the Sweet Spot.

Begin with a powerful artificial larynx that has a fresh battery and charge. Each laryngectomee is different. It is helpful to palpate the neck to locate the most supple tissue. Palpation will also announce the sensitivity of the neck and the patient�s tolerance or intolerance of this procedure. In some cases, one side of the neck will be more tender than the other. In other situations, the neck will be completely numb and void of discomfort. With the patient sitting upright, have him/her form the posture of the neutral vowel. Be certain that the patient�s tongue remains downward and that it does not occlude the pharynx. With the device at 3/4 volume, place the AL firmly on the neck first starting at the most supple areas. Systematically go around the neck with firm and flush pressure seeking the strongest oral signal. Depending upon the handedness of the patient, good early habits can be made. Generally it is best to free-up the dominant hand for activities (ie., writing) that may eventually accompany use of the AL. While use of the AL requires some fine motor skills, other activities require more and demand the dominant hand.

An increase in volume and clarity will be observed by the clinician and usually the patient when the Sweet Spot(s) are found. Importantly, the tongue and oral cavity may be swollen and range of motion may be decreased after surgery. Usually, over a short period this condition improves and speech articulation becomes easier.

After surgery, the Sweet Spot may be elusive and changing. This is largely due to the accumulation of cellular fluid or edema in the head and neck region which can remain for weeks or months after the surgery. This edema will act as an insulator or pillow and absorb the energy coming off the AL device. As the edema dissipates, the Sweet Spot may move. Because of this change it is good to recheck for the optimal device placement. Scar tissue from the surgery and/or radiation therapy may also result in a thickened, woody tissue that is impervious to the AL signal. Unlike edema, scarred or radiated tissue may not soften over time.

For patients who cannot tolerate neck placement or perhaps those who do not have a discernable Sweet Spot on the neck, the use of cheek placement is recommended. When indicated, begin your test trials on the fleshy portion of the cheek and work towards the lip corner looking for the clearest and strongest signal. Some patients will complain that the AL rattles their dentures. Instead of allowing the patient to remove their important teeth, try reducing the volume of the AL and recommend a high quality denture adhesive. Sometimes a slight pitch adjustment will remedy any unwanted vibration. Again start with the neutral vowel and then move to short words and so on. If the cheek becomes a functional location, it is good to explain to the patient that it is only temporary. Over time either edema or hyper-sensitivity will diminish thus allowing for neck placement. Neck placement is considered optimal because it is less conspicuous and because it does not hide the movement of the lips. Intraoral adaptors are also available for most AL devices. This simple rubber cap and tube assembly delivers the signal directly into the mouth, therefore eliminating the need for neck or cheek placement. Like cheek placement, use of the intraoral adaptor is usually temporary.

Once a Sweet Spot is located, therapy can address having the patient consistently and naturally place the device. The use of a mirror and red adhesive dot are helpful tools in achieving this objective. Ear training and audio-recording can also assist the patient in consistently locating the Sweet Spot– especially where auditory perception skills are decreased. Other goals for therapy will usually address over-articulation, intraoral consonant production, control of stoma noise and use of gestures.

The artificial larynx remains an excellent possibility for alaryngeal speech communication. Therapy and encouragement for how best to use the AL device is essential for the rehabilitation of laryngectomees and others using such a device. Identification of the Sweet Spot, amongst other goals, can often make a difference in communication by improving overall intelligibility, volume, clarity, and by reducing frustration.